This is Part II of my column regarding the Top 20 legislative highlights from the 2015 General Assembly session. Last week, I discussed the top 7. Here are the rest.
#8 - Uber Legalized
The legislature authorized ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft. See my prior columns about problems with these services (N).
#9 – Child Care Regulations Strengthened
We lowered the threshold for state regulation of childcare facilities from six to five children excluding the proprietor’s kids and required criminal background checks for all employees and volunteers (Y).
#10 - Veterans
We passed bills to establish two new veterans care centers in the state (Y) and to allow veterans to receive certain academic credits at community colleges for training and educational programs they completed during their military service (Y). Another bill would require the Department of Education to determine how to track students with a parent in the military to help children of military families can get federal aid (Y).
#11 - Limiting "Big Brother"
We passed legislation limiting warrantless collection of personal information by law enforcement unrelated to pending criminal investigations (Y). This includes license plate readers and other types of passive data collection. We passed legislation prohibiting the use of drones for law enforcement without warrants except in emergencies and for training exercises (Y).
#12 - Justice for Sterilizations
We appropriated $400,000 to compensate survivors of the state’s eugenics program which sterilized more than 8,000 people between 1924 to 1979 at $25,000 per person (Y).
In 2002, then-Gov. Mark R. Warner offered “the commonwealth’s sincere apology for Virginia’s participation in eugenics.” He called it “a shameful effort in which state government never should have been involved.” Virginia would be the second state, after North Carolina, to compensate victims.
#13 – Voting Restricted
We passed legislation requiring mail-in absentee voters to provide copies of photo identification unless they are active duty military (N).
#14 - Autism Insurance
We passed legislation that will help about 5,000 Virginia children ages one thru 10 receive health insurance coverage for autism treatments (Y).
#15 - Medical Marijuana and Legal Hemp
We approved a bill legalizing the possession of oil derived from marijuana for people diagnosed with severe epilepsy (Y). We also legalized industrial hemp so we can go back to exporting ropes and sails or something (Y).
#16 – Heroin Crisis
Heroin use and overdoses are on the rise. We passed legislation creating immunity from prosecution for certain persons reporting overdoses in progress (Y). We also expanded a pilot to encourage the use of opioid overdose counteractant drugs by law enforcement (Y) and granted probation officers access to Virginia’s Prescription Monitoring Program to ensure probationers are not abusing prescription drugs (Y).
#17 - Off-Label Prescription Drugs
We passed legislation to expand terminally-ill patients’ access to investigational drugs, under a physician’s supervision if an experimental drug has cleared the first phase of clinical trials but has not yet received final approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (Y).
#18 – Ethics “Reforms”
We passed legislation creating a $100 gift limit, but lifting the $250 overall cap on donations from a single donor (Y). We also prohibited gifts and contributions to the Governor while negotiating grants.
#19 - Tax Refunds
We abolished the unsound policy requiring that tax refunds be issued on debit cards (Y).
#20 - State Song
Virginia might finally have not just one, but two state songs – “Our Great Virginia” and “Sweet Virginia Breeze” (N).
Please email your feedback and suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org. It is an honor to serve as your state delegate.